FETHİYE – Turkish Daily News
Shopping in Fethiye is both a social and economic exercise. First there is the everyday market, where fish, vegetables, meat and a variety of other local produce are sold. It can be said that this market is the heart of Fethiye and that the personal interaction generated is the lifeblood of the community.
Then there is the Tuesday market, which is noisy and brash. Here virtually everything one needs to buy (or not) is sold in vast tented areas, bustling full of local people and tourists, and filled with witty, often English, repartee from the stallholders, such as, �Ten pairs of Kelvin Klein underpants for a fiver -- cheap as chips!�
On Friday local farmers sell their fruit, vegetables and other produce in a vibrant tapestry that is uniquely Turkish. Friends meet and, during the summer months, chat and sip Kar Şerbeti, or natural slush puppies made with snow collected from the Western Taurus Mountains and pekmez, the molasses made around here from grapes.
Customers can taste and feel their way around, relishing the sensuous freedom so often denied in the sanitized world of the store. This market can provide a light meal just from the proffered fruit, olives and cheeses. Many locals do their shopping here, sharing stories, making appointments, transacting business and gossiping: Turkish society at its best!
Times are changing though. Burhanettin Tuna, the owner of Mendos Gıda and an active member of the city's chamber of commerce, said that traders are suffering because of the loss of business to supermarkets. �There are too many [supermarkets] when you look at the size of the population. Many of our members are on the edge financially. The mayor of Kemer, a town just outside Fethiye, refused to give permission for one recently. We need to regulate the number here too.�
Soner and Ümit Ersoy, two fruit and vegetable sellers, and Hüseyin Metiner, a butcher, also expressed their concerns, saying that business has dropped off since the supermarkets came and that it is difficult for them to compete even though they feel the quality of their produce is higher. They said the market is part of their lives and that in their minds they are doing more than just selling food. They are interacting with customers, many of who are their friends.
Hardware stores are also being neglected by their once-loyal customers. Hasan Topoloğlu sits every day in his shop stacked to the ceiling with kitchenware. When asked about business, he shook his head and said, �I always try to help my customers find what they want. This is personal service; not just at the point of sale. The supermarkets are destroying us.�
This is why these business owners are so aggrieved: There are 34 supermarkets in Fethiye and they are out-selling local businesses. There are, in this area, seven Migroses (and its partner chain Şok,) two Carrefours and one Tansaş. Astonishingly, there are 11 Bims. Where will this end? When asked this question a representative for the mayor of Fethiye claimed it was impossible for the municipality to refuse a license and that, even if it did, the courts would reverse the decision.
Nevertheless, the one-stop shop enticement of the supermarkets, with free parking, air conditioning, long opening hours and clearly priced goods are luring even the most hardened �al fresco� shoppers. There are certainly good reasons to choose a cool, organized supermarket. One foreigner said she feels more confident she would not be �ripped off� by supermarkets because the prices were clearly visible.
Those with limited Turkish or little understanding of Turkish culture may prefer the anonymity of a supermarket, while experiencing the heavy sell sales pitch of loval shops makes them feel pressured. Alec Ryland, a resident of Fethiye for many years, tells of friends who avoid certain shops because of the feeling of �being stalked� by overly attentive sales staff, which is seen as being polite by Turks but is almost threatening to foreigners.
Rylands also tells of �bakkal� trying to sell him strange brands in dusty jars and packets, sometimes years past their sell-by date. �This can be most off putting,� he said. Being a careful consumer, he notices that the prices are much cheaper in the big supermarkets � because they can buy in bulk or sell �loss leaders.�
To put it simply, if people spend their money in foreign or franchised supermarkets, the money leaves Fethiye. The only money returning to the local economy is in the wages of employees. A majority of the merchandise sold in big stores is not produced locally either, and, of course, for every item bought in a supermarket one item fewer is bought from a local store.
The scenario is that now the people of Fethiye are being spoiled for choice, but sooner or later they may begin to notice local stores going out of business. Ultimately, people will have lower incomes and less to spend in the few remaining shops and supermarkets, ending up with no choice (or power to implement change) in terms of produce, quality or cost.
It is obvious that supermarkets have a place in modern Turkish society. They are convenient and unambiguous in their pricing, and they inspire confidence in their customers. Whatever happens this will be a tough time for the traders of Fethiye. They have lessons to learn and must modernize in many ways to compete, but if customers want to preserve the uniquely personal shopping experience of towns like Fethiye they must also contribute to finding solutions.